Though it may reek of blasphemy to liken the Powerpuff Girls to the Beatles, consider this: Like the most successful pop group of all time, the Cartoon Network’s animated supertots have hit the top of the pops (their alt rock driven ”Heroes and Villains” was Billboard’s No. 1 album on the children’s music chart for six weeks last summer). And though they’ve yet to make any ”more popular than Jesus” claims, the Girls, like Britain’s Fab Four (currently reconquering America with the hits compilation ”1”), are enjoying a banner new millennium, reigning as one of their network’s highest rated original shows and selling enough merchandise in the past year ($350 million) to rank them among the toy industry’s biggest performers.
Certainly the episodes have become increasingly high concept: Planned installments include a ”Powerpuff” based rock opera and a ”Roger & Me” style mockumentary. And ”art direction wise, it’s gotten a lot more subtle. The filmmaking aspect is more prominent,” observes director John McIntyre. Good thing, too, since production is under way on a $25 million ”Powerpuff” feature, slated for summer 2002 (and yes, despite recent reports of disharmony at the negotiating table, all of ”Powerpuff”’s voice actors will be on board for the big screen project). If that isn’t enough to certify the Girls’ Beatlesesque dominaton of their genre, April will see the unveiling of their very own Kellogg’s manufactured breakfast cereal.
All of which makes ”PPG”’s Feb. 9 ”Meet the Beat Alls” episode so, well, fab. Series creator Craig McCracken, who prominently displays two sets of Beatles action figures in his Burbank office, says, ”It’s our non ‘Powerpuff’ show, essentially an homage to something that we really, really love.”
The cheeky valentine – which premieres on the anniversary of the Fab Four’s 1964 Ed Sullivan Show debut – follows a year that also marked the 30th anniversary of the band’s dissolution and the 20th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. In it, a quartet of the tots’ most reviled archenemies – led by evil chimp genius Mojo Jojo – form an invincible ”supervillain conglomerate” (a.k.a. the Bad Four and the Brutish Invasion) with plans to destroy the 5 year old heroines and terrorize their beloved city of Townsville. ”It just seemed like an obvious transition – if [the villains] get famous, they should become as famous as the Beatles,” says McCracken.
Among the scads of allusions in the episode are no brainers like a take on the band’s 1969 Abbey Road street crossing, as well as more cryptic shout outs – as when, during the episode’s climactic showdown, a character coos, ”Someday monkey will play piano song,” which was McCracken’s lifelong mishearing of a French line in ”Michelle.” But it’s when Mojo falls under the thrall of a ”performance criminal” named Moko Jono that ”Beat Alls” really takes off.
Once smitten (in a scene hilariously lampooning John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s legendary art gallery meeting), the all white clad Moko proceeds to sell Mojo on primal scream therapy, snarling Townsville traffic with a project called ”Annoyance Crime No. 9,” which looks remarkably like Lennon and Ono’s 1969 ”bed in” in Amsterdam. Jono’s interloping ultimately spells doom for the felonious foursome, a plot twist that McCracken insists does not represent garden variety Yoko Ono resentment: ”The Yoko character is a good guy in this episode. The Beat Alls are the bad guys!” Then McIntyre reminds him: ”Moko is portrayed as a naked monkey!” Now who’s walking on thin ice?
(Additional reporting by Caroline Kepnes)
Check out the Feb. 9, 2001, episode of EW for this story in its entirety